R.O.B. (universe)

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SSBB Icon.png SSB4 Icon.png
R.O.B. (universe)
ROBFace.PNG
ROBSymbol.svg
Developer(s) Nintendo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Genre(s) Puzzle
Console of origin Nintendo Entertainment System
First installment Stack-Up (1985)
Latest installment Gyromite (1985)

The R.O.B. universe (ロボット, Robot) refers to the usage of the historically significant Robotic Operating Buddy peripheral for the NES as a playable character in the Super Smash Bros. series. It was first represented in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, with the peripheral appearing as both a playable character and as a set of enemies in The Subspace Emissary story mode as the R.O.B. Squad. R.O.B. returns as a secret unlockable character in Super Smash Bros. 4.

Franchise description[edit]

Roughly around the same time as Nintendo's domestic launch of its new video game console, the Famicom, in July 1983, one of the most infamous and historically significant time periods in the video game industry's early timeline was at its height: the two year-long North American video game recession that began in 1983 and heralded the catastrophic end of the second generation of video gaming. Several causes for the phenomenon are routinely identified by historical retrospectives: roughly a dozen separate consoles were available for retail by 1982, each with its own library of games and its own funding by almost as many different companies, and several of these companies were hastily started and financed in order to join what seemed to be a booming North American video game market - but were not always in possession of their own necessarily accomplished video game programmers.

Furthermore, the hardware manufacturers of this era - in stark contrast to Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and Microsoft in later decades - did not have exclusive control of their platforms' supply of games, effectively meaning that any group could make a game and sell it, and there was nothing to prevent limited shelf space in stores from being overloaded by third-party publishers' material. This effectively resulted in the industry becoming flooded with games of notably low quality that were nonetheless marketed heavily and produced in high numbers.

The two most spectacular such game releases throughout 1982, which are popularly labeled "the games that killed gaming", were an Atari 2600 port of the landmark and popular arcade game Pac-Man and an Atari 2600 game based on the then-highest grossing film of all time, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Both games were high-profile titles that were adaptations of properties that were themselves extremely high-profile, and in both cases, Atari rushed their programming and development processes to make early releases, and manufactured colossal amounts of units in anticipation of huge hits. Both games were universally panned by critics and consumers alike, and while they sold very well in terms of absolute numbers, Atari grossly overestimated the number of sales they would generate, and many unsold units remained in stock at stores.

This began a brutal chain reaction across the entire North American market, which was not at all helped by a newly soured consumer outlook on the video game concept: most stores, lacking space to carry new games and consoles, had no choice but to attempt to return surplus games to recent publishers, but since publishers had neither new products to supply nor cash to issue refunds to the retailers, many companies folded, and of those that did not, several abandoned the video game business entirely. Stores left with units that could no longer be returned to defunct publishers could only resort to offering the titles for spectacularly low bargain-bin prices. Toy retailers that controlled consumer access to games had concluded that video games were a fad that had in fact ended, and therefore became opposed to devoting shelf space to video games and consoles in favor of other types of entertainment products.

The massive recession of North America's video game market into near-complete irrelevance had, of course, by definition handed dominance in the home console market to Japan, and Nintendo's Famicom console was free to build up influence in the country and become the dominant console by far. During development of Super Mario Bros., Nintendo sought an eventual late-1985 Western release for the Famicom and its building library as the "NES", but Western retailers' long-established bias against video games and video game-playing machines was a formidable barrier to these plans. Nintendo's Research and Development Team therefore hoped to construct hardware compatible with the console that could help present the NES console to these retailers as a "toy" and "entertainment system" with compatible "Game Paks" and different toy-like peripherals, instead of being presented as merely the latest console-with-cartridges product. The NES Zapper light gun and several games associated with it were already on hand to help provide this image, but Nintendo proceeded to develop a mechanically complex, battery-powered peripheral resembling a nearly foot-tall robot that was literally named "Robot". They developed two NES cartridges compatible with the device: Robot Block, released in Japan along with the Robot unit itself near the end of July 1985, and Robot Gyro, released mid-August. Robot was renamed "R.O.B." for its Western release, and its associated games Stack-Up and Gyromite, respectively.

The Western launch date of the NES, October 18th, 1985, was a month after Super Mario Bros. revolutionized the video game market in Japan. Nintendo's ploy to use R.O.B. to convince American toy retailers to allow the NES video game console in their stores was evidently successful, for Super Mario Bros., the NES, and the rest of its extensive launch library were uninhibited in their distribution and sales in the West. The irony is that, in any other circumstance, R.O.B. and its two games would likely have been remembered as a dismal failure in Nintendo's timeline of experimental peripherals for its game consoles; not only were Gyromite and Stack-up the only two packages ever released for the unit, but videos showing the unit in action demonstrate that R.O.B.'s operative efficiency and practicality with even these two games were questionable at best.

Gyromite was effectively a side-scrolling game where the controls were split between player-character movement on player 1's Control Pad and environmental effects on player 2's A and B buttons, making it a cooperative game, and R.O.B.'s contribution to Gyromite was effectively as an optional substitute for a second player, where pressing Start on player 1's controller would compel R.O.B. to press an appropriate button on the player 2 controller after going through roughly half a minute's worth of pre-programmed motions. Stack-Up, on the other hand, fared better as software that used the R.O.B. unit itself as a physical game device, where electronically inputting commands with the NES controller would compel R.O.B. to move and drop colored blocks onto stands surrounding its base, though the pre-programmed motions of the R.O.B. unit often knocked blocks off their stands unintentionally.

Nonetheless, analysts argue that the R.O.B. unit had a uniquely profound and important effect in the history of video games as a market, even if it was entirely due to its "Trojan horse" concept rather than its actual performance as a product. To what degree R.O.B. truly allowed the newly Nintendo-dominated video game business to proliferate in the West is a point of debate. Nevertheless, Nintendo has shown itself to hold the R.O.B. unit in high regard, as evident by having it make a number of cameos and even a few playable appearances in a rather large number of its modern-day franchises. Its cameos consist of Kirby being able to collect its parts and reassemble them in a puzzle in Kirby's Dream Land 3, several R.O.B.-centered microgames appearing throughout the WarioWare series, a model of R.O.B. decorating a portion of Port Town Aero Dive in F-Zero GX (which also occurs in the stage of the same name in Super Smash Bros. Brawl), R.O.B. appearing in the Curiosity Shop in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D, R.O.B.'s head being a collectable treasure in Pikmin 2, and R.O.B. appearing as on the back portion of the box art of Capcom's Viewtiful Joe. Conversely, its playable appearances consist of Mario Kart DS, which marked its debut as a full-fledged video game character and even features a kart that resembles its Stack-Up accessories, and lastly and most notably, the Super Smash Bros. series as of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

In addition to cameos and playable appearances, R.O.B. has been referenced in some instances, with the most notable of these occurring within the Star Fox series. ROB 64 references R.O.B. both in name and in function as a robotic assistant, due to his status as the pilot of the Great Fox. However, Star Fox Zero and Star Fox Guard both feature robots that are almost identical to R.O.B. Zero features Direct-i, who is tethered to the Gyrowing and functions similarly to ROB 64 and R.O.B. by being an assistant to the player. Conversely, Guard features the A.T.K. Unit, which is one of the "combat class" robots in the game that threaten the player's mining facilities. Outside of these instances, StarTropics features a robot resembling R.O.B. named "NAV-COM", who is an important side character.

As for the scenario in the two "Robot Series" games themselves, they both featured an on-screen playable character named Professor Hector, who in Stack-Up simply existed to be controlled into hopping across a keyboard-like graphic onscreen in order to dictate the physical R.O.B. unit's carry-and-drop movements of the colored blocks around it. Sometimes, enemies referred to as "glitches" named Spike and Flipper got in his way. In Gyromite, a more detailed scenario was provided: Professor Hector has been trapped in rooms filled with dynamite and hostile enemies named Smicks, and he is otherwise defenseless in his quest to grab all the dynamite in each stage, except for the presence of colored pedestals scattered throughout each stage that may be raised or lowered by the button presses of the second player's controller. These pedestals may trap Smicks out of the professor's way and may even squish them - or Hector himself if he is not careful - and the R.O.B. unit that may be used as the second player, which essentially drops spinning tops called "gyros" onto the second NES controller's red buttons to keep the gates held down for the player operating the first NES controller - represents Hector's creation helping him out of his predicament.

In Super Smash Bros. Brawl[edit]

Since the R.O.B. universe only has two games to draw material from, it has minimal representation: it features one character, one enemy, one item (R.O.B's down special move, Gyro), one music track, and no stages. Despite this, R.O.B. plays an integral role in Adventure Mode, while Mario Bros. compensates as his home stage in the Classic and All-Star Modes.

Characters[edit]

  • ROBIcon(SSBB).png
    R.O.B.: R.O.B. is the only playable character in the R.O.B. universe. His moveset is unique to Brawl, though it features a few references to his status as a real-life video game peripheral; for example, the flashing red light on R.O.B.'s head when his Robo Beam is charged is a throwback to when the red light flashed to indicate that R.O.B. was ready for use with the NES. On the final character select screen, which is achieved once all characters are unlocked, R.O.B. shares the fourth column alongside the Ice Climbers, Pit and Samus, who also originated on the Famicom/NES and yet are the only representatives of their respective universes.

Trophies[edit]

Trophies which feature R.O.B.s are:

R.O.B. - Brawl Trophy.png

R.O.B. (Series: "Others". Unlock: Clear Classic Mode as R.O.B.)
R.O.B. sporting his Famicom colors. R.O.B. debuted in Japan as Robot in 1985 as an add-on for the Famicom. He could be combined with a "gyro set," etc. for two types of play. The player controlled Professor Hector, the TV emitted light, and R.O.B. responded to the light by moving. At the time, it was epoch-making game play. Recently, R.O.B. appeared in Mario Kart DS.

NES: Nintendo Entertainment System Robotic Operating Buddy
Diffusion Beam - Brawl Trophy.png

Diffusion Beam (Series: "Others". Unlock: Clear All-Star Mode as R.O.B.)
R.O.B.'s Final Smash. He emits a beam from his eyes that spreads across the spectrum and undulates in great variety as it travels. What makes this technique different is R.O.B.'s ability to move while using it. This allows him to use it in combination with his other moves to increase his Final Smash's effectiveness.

Wii: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
R.O.B. Sentry - Brawl Trophy.png

R.O.B. Sentry (Use Trophy Stand)
A robot with a two-armed shot. This R.O.B. uses the booster on its base to propel its jumps. Often used in the Subspace Army bomb factory in defense or labor roles, the R.O.B. Sentry also works as a detonator. Its emotional capacity is unknown, but it has utter trust in the Ancient Minister and obeys him unwaveringly. This production model has been made in great numbers.

Wii: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
R.O.B. Launcher - Brawl Trophy.png

R.O.B. Launcher (Series: The Subspace Emissary. Unlock: Use Trophy Stand)
An upgraded R.O.B. model with a missile-launcher head that bolsters firepower. The standard coloring has also been refinished with a green and brown military motif, stylishly accented with a blue cord connecting the arm sections and base. This R.O.B. does not use its arms—attacks are limited to the missiles fired from its head.

Wii: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
R.O.B. Blaster - Brawl Trophy.png

R.O.B. Blaster (Series: The Subspace Emissary. Unlock:Use Trophy Stand)
A R.O.B. model boasting robo-beam- blasting eye lenses suited for long-range combat. There are two types—one acts like a stationary gun, sitting in place and lining up targets, and the other is mobile. Actually, the R.O.B. Sentry also features beam-firing capabilities, but because the roles of the R.O.B. Squad are so well defined, there's no conflict between the ranks.

Wii: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Ancient Minister - Brawl Trophy.png

Ancient Minister (Series: The Subspace Emissary. Unlock: Adventure Mode: The Subspace Emissary)
The commander of the Subspace Army who uses Subspace Bombs to tear up this world. He was once the lord of this world, living on the floating Island of the Ancients with many robots-but the robots were taken hostage on Tabuu's orders. Now that their home's a bomb factory, the robots carry out their functions while enduring deep sadness caused by the loss of their colleagues.

Wii: Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Subspace Bomb - Brawl Trophy.png

Subspace Bomb (Series: The Subspace Emissary. Unlock: Clear Boss Battles on Easy difficulty)
A weapon that, when it explodes, draws every part of this world within its blast range into Subspace. The areas drawn into Subspace this way float about in bubbles as individual colonies. To detonate a bomb, two R.O.B.'s must be destroyed in the process. The Ancient Minister is bitterly aggrieved by this fact.

Wii: Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Music[edit]

  • Gyromite - A remix of the title theme of Stack-Up, the game R.O.B. was packaged with. While Brawl mislabeled this track as being the background music from Gyromite, there are some short tracks from Gyromite that are inserted into this remix. It is used on the Mario Bros. stage and is played during R.O.B.'s Character Roll Call.
  • R.O.B.'s victory theme - Upbeat music derived from Stack-Up's background music.

Stickers[edit]

Name Game Effect Characters
R.O.B. Mario Kart DS [Specials: Indirect] Attack +15 R.O.B.
Robot & Blocks Stack-Up [Specials: Indirect] Attack +27 R.O.B.
Robot Mario Kart DS [Energy] Attack +32 R.O.B.

In Super Smash Bros. 4[edit]

The R.O.B. universe returns in Super Smash Bros. 4. Unlike in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, its representation is very minimal: while R.O.B. retains his status as the universe's sole representative, only one song returns from Brawl and is exclusive to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. As a result, the R.O.B. universe is effectively akin to a "bonus" universe in SSB4, much like how the EarthBound and F-Zero universes were in Super Smash Bros., and how the Fire Emblem universe was in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Characters[edit]

  • ROBIcon(SSB4-U).png
    R.O.B.: R.O.B. returns as a playable character, but has undergone some aesthetic and mechanical changes in the transition. The most notable examples are his design being much more inline with his real-life appearance, his KO potential being vastly improved, his zoning game being somewhat worsened, and Diffusion Beam being replaced by Super Diffusion Beam. Outside of these examples, his moveset has remained largely intact.

Music[edit]

  • Stack-Up / Gyromite: Returns from Brawl and is used on Wrecking Crew.

Games with influences[edit]

Gyromite[edit]

This game was the first with the inclusion of the Famicom Robot/Robotic Operating Buddy. Gyro was based on a top-like accessory used for the game. Also, a remix of the music from this game is used in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Trivia[edit]

  • The R.O.B. universe is the only universe that has appeared in more than one Super Smash Bros. game to have a playable character, yet no home stage.
  • In Brawl, R.O.B. sports his Famicom color scheme of red and white as his default costume, while his gray and white NES color scheme is available as an alternate costume. While this feature is retained in the Japanese version of SSB4, it is reversed in non-Japanese versions of SSB4, which feature his NES color scheme as his default costume and his Famicom color scheme as an alternate costume.
  • The R.O.B., Wii Fit and Xenoblade universes are the only non-third party universes with a playable character introduced after Melee to not have been represented in any way in previous Super Smash Bros. games prior to debuting in the Super Smash Bros. series.
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